Artist Biography

William Sommer

(1867 - 1949)

Table of Contents

    Born in Detroit in 1867, William Sommer was a lithographer by trade. The son of German immigrants, he briefly studied at an art academy in Germany before moving to New York and then to Cleveland, where he accepted a position at the Otis Lithograph Company. Fellow lithographer, Abel Warshawsky, taught Sommer the fundamentals of Impressionism—a style Sommer practiced from 1910–1912. Another local lithographer, William Zorach, later provided key inspiration for Sommer’s Post-Impressionist work, as seen in his large, flat areas of vivid color and streamlined forms. In 1911, Sommer co-founded the Kokoon Arts Club, an artists group in Cleveland dedicated to promoting Modernism. After a visit to the pivotal 1913 Armory show in New York, Sommer’s style began to reflect the influence of Henri Matisse through his use of evocative colorism and dynamic brushstrokes. Upon relocating to Brandywine, Ohio, Sommer converted an abandoned schoolhouse into a studio. He continued to produce works inspired by Matisse throughout his career, however, by the late 1920s—he had developed his own unique style, incorporating midwestern subject matter with European Modernism.

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